This past Sunday, we witnessed history: Super Bowl LI, which included an incredible comeback by the Patriots and made Tom Brady the first ever player to win five Super Bowls. Before this past Sunday, I can honestly say I had never in my life seen the Atlanta Falcons play, but I was still rooting for them. I wasn’t a follower, but I jumped on the bandwagon for this one game. The thing is, though, I felt pretty neutral when they lost; I wasn’t that invested.
But, for someone who had followed either of these teams all season and all the seasons before this, this game was far more important. This particular type of fan, let’s call them followers, were all in. They had spent time and energy on this team, watching every game, buying merchandise, etc., and they were far more invested than I was. At the end of the game, they were either ecstatic or heartbroken.
This comparison between a fan and a follower is an interesting one, and applies to more than just sports teams. Really, this distinction can be seen in anything we make a commitment to in our lives, including our faith. Fans of Jesus admire him, maybe even rave about what a good teacher he is, probably have tons of knowledge about him, but have never stepped beyond that. Followers of Jesus, on the other hand, are all in. They don’t just think Jesus is a good idea; they’ve made a commitment to follow and obey him completely.
In his book Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus, author Kyle Idleman explains it like this: “Fans don’t mind him doing a little touch-up work, but Jesus wants complete renovation. Fans come to Jesus thinking tune-up, but Jesus is thinking overhaul. Fans think a little makeup is fine, but Jesus is thinking makeover. Fans think a little decorating is required, but Jesus wants a complete remodel. Fans want Jesus to inspire them, but Jesus wants to interfere with their lives.”
Imagine sitting at the edge of a beautiful lake. Being a fan looks like admiring the lake, and maybe even putting your feet in. Being a follower, on the other hand, looks like taking a running start cannonball into the water. Following Jesus means total surrender; it means allowing Jesus to radically transform your life every single day. He didn’t tell us to take up our crosses and admire him, he said to take up our crosses and follow him (Luke 9:23).
So, what do you think? When it comes to Jesus, are you going to be a fan or a follower?